Thursday, January 8, 2009


Topps did not climb to the top of the confectionery ladder in the 1950's by accident. They had advertising and sales departments that were very, very good at doing their jobs and left nothing to chance. One of the first things they likely ever did to help promote sales was to include in their unopened packaging certificates that could be redeemed by a retailer for prizes. The theory was that the more the retailer ordered, the more certificates he could redeem for prizes.

The earliest certificate I have is from 1945 and was issued during World War 2. Paper and sugar during the war were rationed among the US population but businesses were also subject to quotas. Topps was able to circumvent this with an aggressive strategy of buying up struggling businesses during the war, which allowed them to assume the rationed quotas of paper and staple goods assigned to those businesses. It sounds a bit predatory but it is a sound business practice. This allowed them to keep selling gum and candy and to keep printing redemption certificates to help those sales along. Here is the '45 Certificate, or to be precise 1/2 Certificate:

The smaller portion on the right looks like a coupon but it is not. Some Topps Certificates have these "sidebars" and some don't. In this instance its really a PSA that tells how many certificates you can use to obtain $1 worth of Victory Stamps.

I'm not sure if Topps ever resided at 134 Broadway in Brooklyn. They definitely were housed in the Gretsch Building at 60 Broadway in the early to mid 1940's before they moved to Bush Terminal in the late 40's but #134 may have just been where the premiums were mailed from by a third party administrator. (UPDATE: They were indeed located there, having moved offices from 60 Broadway, which housed machinery and provided warehouse space.) It could have just been a mail drop as well. If you click the image above and blow up the scan, you can see the high quality anti-counterfeiting paper that was used. There was nothing cheap about these certificates at all; Topps considered them to be valuable.

The reverse has some nifty prizes. That coffee maker looks scary!

Here's a Certificate from a little later on (1950):

You can see that Topps Gum is still the featured brand. Bazooka was just starting to devour the market as the 50's dawned. The mail-in address has changed to a PO box.

The back is a little more interesting than last time. Check out those gams!

The introduction of photography on the reverses just shows how highly Topps valued the Certificates and the redemption program. In case you are wondering, these measure about 4 3/4" x 2 3/4".

Some of the certificates were more specific than others. You only needed five of these to get a Chef's Knife, or you could put it toward the regular premiums.

Notice how the address in 1952 is Topps HQ in Bush Terminal now. The back of this particular example is blank by the way.

I'll close out with some Geranium:

It sounds flowery, doesn't it? I'll bet in reality is was just a bunch of overstock Topps or their supplier got real cheap, or they struck an advertising deal to promote this style of dinnerware. It's probably the same stuff they used to give away in movie theaters during the Depression.

You can see from the scan that Bazooka is much more prominently featured at this point. I am not sure when Topps brand fruit and mint gum ceased to be but Bazooka Joe and the gang were in full swing by the time this Certicate was issued in 1955.

The back is boring, it's just a couple of lists:

I'll have more to say on these down the road. They were issued into the early 1980's according to that Interstate Man of Mystery, Jeff Shepherd. With that span of time to cover, there's plenty more to talk about anon.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave - great post. That Geranium Dinnerware promotion was heavily pushed by Topps, possibly spanning several years. At one point they were printing the entire top portion of Bazooka Gum boxes with ads for the china. I actually picked up a cup and saucer from a woman who remembers her father saving the certificates at her family's store and sending away for pieces. Basically white china with a large red Geranium painted on the side, shrouded in a few green leaves. These items had real value to people back then.

Unknown said...

Do you have a guesstimate as to the value of these certificates?? I have one older than either of those shown. It says "Redeem by Sept. 30th 1944".. Thanks.. mike...

Anonymous said...


toppcat said...

I would think $5-$10 is right for a mid 40's example.

Anonymous said...

I have a Topps tub that does not have the silver top. It has 3 blue oval labels that reads; only natural flavors Topps chewing 1 cent gum and in small print around one of the 3 labels it says made in U.S.A. No other print besides the colorful packs of gum (cinnamon, pepsin, spearmint,and peppermint)Could you give me any info. on this tub. I have photo's if needed. Thanks, Karen